Smith Mountain Lake

It rained all evening, all night and the whole morning on our departure from Altoona. When it eventually stopped, we’ve arrived in Cumberland, Maryland. This sudden dryness in the air has tricked us into changing our plans. We were headed to Big Bend State Park in West Virginia, but decided to stay in Rocky Gap near town. A terrible mistake… The first night was dry, although thick clouds covered the sky at all times. The wood in the park was to wet to get a proper fire going. We ended up watching a movie on my laptop in the car. The next day was still fairly dry and we’ve tried a little bike ride around the lake. Unfortunately, the trail was just a bit too difficult for Nadia (Alex didn’t complain, sitting on a one wheel attachment carried behind my bicycle). The good thing is we decided to turn around and return to our camp just before the rain. We watched couple of movies in the car that night…

It poured all night and the next morning. There were no signs of relief any time soon. We packed our stuff in the midst of an epic storm. We were all soaking wet, but ready to go. The destination didn’t matter - anywhere dry and sunny would do. I turned the key, but instead of the familiar engine rumble there was nothing - just some strange clicking of the electric system. I guess two nights of watching movies eventually dried the battery. The timing could be better! Fortunately a ranger came to our rescue and jump started the engine. We were on the road before noon. We stopped at Martin’s, a local equivalent of Wegmans (a New York chain of upscale grocery stores). Although not as sophisticated, it offered enough products in the organic alley to satisfy the Captain and a decent internet connection to fine tune our trip. Looking at the Doppler radar, I knew the only way was south.  Cumberland was at the very edge of the storm, and had we pursued our original destination we would have been fine. Lesson learned. Our next target was Douthat State Park in Virginia. Within an hour we were out of the influence of Lee, a tropical storm bullying entire North East. The route followed highway 220 in the winding roads of West Virginia. The afternoon unfold to be dry and sunny, just as we wanted it. It was late afternoon, when we finally got to the park. To our horror, there were no camp sites available. Yes, it’s past Labor Day, but with such beautiful weather, the park was still cramped with outdoors enthusiasts. We’ve decided to spend another night at a hotel, but we still had an important mission to accomplish before that. After all, we’ve left Rocky Gap in the middle of a storm and all our camping gear was still soaking wet locked out in the roof rack. We stopped in Lexington and pulled out all our equipment at a local community park. An old lady with a poodle was looking suspiciously when I started putting up the tent and Agnieszka pulled out the stove and started cooking. I was sure she would call the cops… Apparently she didn’t, as an hour later all our stuff was semi-dry and we weren’t hungry anymore. It was almost eight, so time to find a hotel room for the night. We pulled at Best Western parking lot and… opened up the laptop and booked a room through hotwire.com. Five minutes later, we’ve arrived at a local Days Inn. The kids were delighted, when they saw a swimming pool from our hotel room window. Unfortunately, the season ended and despite the temperature in mid-80’s (25 C), the facility was already closed. To save the day, I picked up a nearby camping in Smith Mountain Lake State Park, making sure there are camp sites available and that the swimming beach is still open. The road to the park goes through the Blue Ridge Parkway and quite frankly I was very happy we didn’t set off for the trip in an RV (i.e. Recreational Vehicle or a camper), as I’m sure I wouldn’t make the tight curves. The scenery was picture perfect, the sky cloudless, our morale finally started to build up after this unfortunate start of our journey. When we arrived at the park, we were very pleasantly surprised by modern facilities, abundance of activities for kids, and complete lack of mosquitos! We have the whole park almost entirely to ourselves, and we’ll stay here for another week. I hope this will finally give us a chance to re-pack and charge our batteries after two months of partying with Friends and Family. I’ll keep you posted.